Source: M. E. Boyd

Not everything has a name. Some things lead us into a realm beyond words.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. (1918-2008)

For even the most devoted Wokesters in America today—whether true believers or camp followers—all know America is in a realm beyond words. It resembles the type of heightened exhilaration before one hits the ground in the instant agony of sure death. A Thelma and Louise moment.

At such a time, and before our nation hits the ground, we may want to re-visit a complicated writer, loyal Russian, and American visitor for almost twenty years—Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.

This is a man who loved his country but not his country’s tyranny. This is a man who embraced socialism and communism with his great mind and then turned on those ideologies once he saw them in practice. Stalin had him arrested and sent to labor camps in 1945. The Soviet Union exiled him for his writing and publishing, and he eventually ended up in Montpelier, Vermont. Solzhenitsyn was a complex, perhaps tortured soul. He tried his best to explain how both Russian and America got it wrong.

And so, what he had to say about American society in a 1978 commencement speech at Harvard University is worth noting.

Solzhenitsyn gave the country a good dressing down. America lacks civic courage. America’s foreign policy reflects weakness, cowardice, and a lack of manliness. Americans have become materialistic, irreligious, place man at the center of the universe, and have the hubris to think that the Western social construct should be exported worldwide.

Solzhenitsyn considered the American mass media to be nothing but a superficial purveyor of misinformation under the guise of “freedom of the press.” There is no such thing in America, he said; it is really freedom from a deep investigation. The reporting in America is superficial and hastily contrived. It creates mass prejudices, blindness, and self-delusion.

He said that America has lost its Christian heritage and has become soulless—its form of rational humanism emancipates people from their moral core and creates a type of poverty of the spirit that allows evil ideologies to enter the society and take hold. He saw the signs all around. There is a decline in the arts in America. There are no statesmen of quality in America. When the delusional and unrestrained don’t get what they want they loot and burn. We might add mob action for today’s activists—even at weddings and in restrooms. Only a crowbar of horrific events can break open the minds of the deluded—a Thelma and Louise moment or moments that will destroy all.

Solzhenitsyn would not recommend our society to the world.

This speech, remember, was given in 1978. He was living in Vermont with his three sons and second wife. Before he went back to live in Russia, he had educated his children at MIT and Harvard. In his memoir of that time, Between Two Millstones, Book 2, Solzhenitsyn admitted he admired the concepts he allowed himself to experience in America although he kept mostly to himself. He admired the local nature of things here. He liked the idea of our Rule of Law and our fierce protection of Liberty. He liked the New England sense of self-restraint.

Solzhenitsyn warned that if we continued our moral decline and allowed socialism to replace our free-enterprise system that “Socialism of any type leads to a total destruction of the human spirit, and to a leveling of mankind into death.” He warned us that the path we are on will lead to—a realm beyond words. His colleague, Igor Shafarevich, put it this way: Socialism’s goal is to abolish private property, the family as the organic structure of society, and all religion.

America is in the car at the edge of the cliff. The car is running. Will we gun the engine and fly off the edge to sure demise? Are there enough Americans with moral courage to take the keys away? Are there enough politicians to say “no” to both the bills now before Congress that are intended to destroy our society, the harm of which cannot be reversed? Has any religious leader the faintest remembrance of our deeply rooted moral heritage that places God at the center of man’s responsibility and is ever vigilant lest the “old deluder” lead us astray?

Solzhenitsyn’s warnings to America were not well-received. His criticism of America was, in part, that we did not understand or respect Mother Russia. In fact, Solzhenitsyn did not understand America completely, either. His view that the 18th-century Enlightenment separated America from God is not accurate. The Constitution of 1787 rejected theocracy but acknowledged the importance of religion in the social structure by leaving religious matters, including the establishment of state churches, to each state. The Founders never intended a wall of separation between individuals and God. What has separated Americans from God is materialism and relativism. Solzhenitsyn was right about that.

Alexis de Tocqueville, 1831, says it succinctly: Liberty regards religion…as the divine source of its claims. It considers religion the safeguard of morality, and morality as the best security of law, and the surest pledge of the duration of freedom. Tocqueville also thought the invention of the township as another layer of local control one of the great gifts to the art of statecraft.

Perhaps the civic courage we need now is best represented not by politicians and statesmen, but by ordinary American parents, trying to save their children in whose DNA lies the best American traits of strength and morals. They will turn off the engine of our self-inflicted inclination toward cultural suicide and wrap a firm but loving arm around Thelma and Louise until they regain their senses.

We do thank this great man, however, for pointing out how we got to the edge of the cliff in the first place. What, one wonders, would he say about America in 2021?